Charlie Levy, the boss over at Stateside Presents, one of the best promoters in the state, has written an open letter to bands boycotting the state because of SB 1070.
The letter started circulating last week and The Arizona Republic ran it as an op-ed in this morning's issue.
I'd have trouble saying it better than Charlie (full, unedited text on the jump) but I think his comparison between a theoretical boycott of Alabama led by Martin Luther King Jr. and progressive artists boycotting Arizona now is totally valid.
I also think he could have published only two of these paragraphs and made his point ferociously:
1. By not performing in Arizona, artists are harming the very people and places that foster free speech and the open exchange of ideas that serve to counter the closed-mindedness recently displayed by the new law. (Get it, Jenny Lewis?)
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2. The truth is, a boycott is an easy gesture that doesn't require much more than a statement and removing a date from your tour schedule. However, if you truly care about the effects of the controversial immigration law that was passed, this is an opportunity to use your unique position as an artist with the ability to reach thousands of people to inspire, educate, and motivate your fans to actively be a part of the change.
Damn good points, Charlie. Read the full letter below. Also, please consider buying this compilation of protest songs written by Arizona artists opposed to SB 1070.
An Open Letter to All Artists Boycotting Arizona
As a political activist and 15-year independent concert promoter in Arizona, I feel a deep obligation to speak out about the real world effects of artists boycotting the state in protest of SB 1070, the recent anti-immigration bill passed by the legislature and signed into law by our (unelected) Governor. While I respect the intentions of the artists protesting what they find to be an unjust law, the practical effect of the boycott is resulting in exactly the opposite of their good-willed intentions.
By not performing in Arizona, artists are harming the very people and places that foster free speech and the open exchange of ideas that serve to counter the closed-mindedness recently displayed by the new law. The people who will feel the negative effects of the boycott the deepest are local concert venues, including non-profit art house theaters, independent promoters, motivated fans, and the hundreds of people employed in the local music business. If the boycott continues, it is all but guaranteed that some of these venues will be forced to close their doors.
Think of it this way: What if otherwise outspoken and inspirational activists like Martin Luther King, Jr. had turned their backs on the State of Alabama and its citizens because they didn't agree with the discriminatory practices of its government during the critical years of the civil rights movement? What would have happened if they had chosen to boycott Alabama rather than speak out, organize, and effect change?
We are faced with a similar situation in Arizona today. The legislators currently in office don't care if outspoken artists boycott the state. The people responsible for SB 1070 don't want you here. They don't want your voices heard. And as a result of the boycott, they are the only ones who benefit. In effect, the decision to boycott is playing right into their hands.
As Curtis McCrary, the general manager of the non-profit Rialto Theatre in Tucson recently stated, "The individuals and organizations behind this bill are...more than likely delighted about the prospect of politically vocal artists canceling shows - silencing themselves rather than using the platform their status as artists gives them to speak out against SB 1070."
The truth is, a boycott is an easy gesture that doesn't require much more than a statement and removing a date from your tour schedule. However, if you truly care about the effects of the controversial immigration law that was passed, this is an opportunity to use your unique position as an artist with the ability to reach thousands of people to inspire, educate, and motivate your fans to actively be a part of the change.
I have felt and seen the effects of what artists can do to change peoples' lives individually and as a whole. In this important midterm election year, it is imperative that the voters are organized and prepared to express their views about the recent law at the voting booths in November. Every concert venue and promoter in the state would be happy to help coordinate voter registration drives and set up information booths in connection with concerts. Many of us are already planning specific events, including rallies and benefit concerts, designed to educate and encourage local music lovers to get involved at this crucial time.
This open letter is a call out to all artists to come take a stand and perform in Arizona. We need you now more than ever.
If you are interested in exploring ways to help us, including voter outreach and organizing with local non-profits, or you just want more information, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.